Belgium, Croatia Star Favourites, Canada Look to Stage Upset


The 2022 FIFA World Cup Group F has Belgium, Croatia, Canada and Morocco with the group phase being played from 20 November to 2 December.

The golden generation of Belgium has one more chance to get hands-on with an international trophy. The number 1 ranked side has some world-class players like Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku. The downfall of Eden Hazard in recent times is a major area of concern for manager Roberto Martinez as he has to make a call on whether to pick the Real Madrid star in the starting line-up or not.

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Belgium had a dream journey in Russia last time till the semifinal where France got the better of them courtesy of a header from Samuel Umtiti. They finished third in the tournament after beating England. However, De Bruyne has to create magic with his foot to better the performance of Belgium from last time. All eyes will be on him as he has emerged as one of the best players in the world since the last World Cup.

Meanwhile, Lukaku hasn’t played much football in recent times but he will be key for them in front of the goal. While Atletico Madrid’s Yannick Carrasco will be another player who has to shine on the big stage in Qatar.

Belgium Squad

Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg).

Defenders: Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), Toby Alderweireld (Royal Antwerp), Leander Dendoncker (Aston Villa), Zeno Debast (Anderlecht), Arthur Theate (Rennes), Wout Faes (Leicester City).

Midfielders: Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Atletico Madrid), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Amadou Onana (Everton), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund).

Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce), Lois Openda (Racing Lens), Charles De Ketelaere (AC Milan), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Dries Mertens (Galatasaray), Leandro Trossard (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Croatia

The runners-up of last time will enter the tournament once again as the big underdogs in the tournament led by a Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric. This time Croatia will be without Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic who have retired their announcement from international football. Ivan Perisic and Mateo Kovacic will be the other players alongside Modric who will play a crucial role if Croatia have to make a long journey in the tournament.

They will be the favourites alongside Belgium to qualify from Group F but their primary target will be to get the better of De Bruyne and Co. Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has to form unity in the squad to replicate the success of Russia.

In the friendly match ahead of the tournament, they beat Saudi Arabia 1-0. The Croatians, who lost 4-2 to France in the final four years ago in Russia, begin their latest World Cup bid against Morocco in Al Khor on November 23.

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivica Ivusic (NK Osijek), Ivo Grbic (Atletico Madrid).

Defenders: Domagoj Vida (AEK Athens), Dejan Lovren (Zenit St Petersburg), Borna Barisic (Rangers), Josip Juranovic (Celtic), Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig), Borna Sosa (VfB Stuttgart), Josip Stanisic (Bayern Munich), Martin Erlic (Sassuolo), Josip Sutalo (Dinamo Zagreb).

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta), Nikola Vlasic (Torino), Lovro Majer (Stade Rennais), Kristijan Jakic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Luka Sucic (Salzburg).

Forwards: Ivan Perisic (Tottenham Hotspur), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim ), Bruno Petkovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Marko Livaja (Hajduk Split).

Canada

The Canadian team qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time after 1986 which was their only appearance in the showpiece event. They are one of the dark horses in the group which can upset a big team to get into the round of 16. Alphonso Davies will be the star player to look out for from the Canadian side as he has all the credentials to play as both the full-back and winger. He has played under crunch situations on several occasions for Bayern Munich in Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League.

John Herdman was subsequently installed as the coach of Canada’s men’s teams in 2018, with the mission to qualify the team for the World Cup for the first time since their lone appearance at the 1986 finals and he did it but now he has a bigger task in front of his eyes.

Goalkeepers: James Pantemis, Milan Borjan, Dayne St Clair

Defenders: Samuel Adekugbe, Joel Waterman, Alistair Johnston, Richie Laryea, Kamal Miller, Steven Vitoria, Derek Cornelius

Midfielders: Liam Fraser, Ismael Kone, Mark-Anthony Kaye, David Wotherspoon, Jonathan Osorio, Atiba Hutchinson, Stephen Eustaquio, Samuel Piette

Forwards: Tajon Buchanan, Liam Millar, Lucas Cavallini, Ike Ugbo, Junior Hoilett, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Alphonso Davies

Morocco

The Atlas Lions have stuck in a tricky group in the FIFA World Cup. The 22-ranked FIFA side defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo in a play-off. Walid Regragui didn’t get much time to get prepared for the mega event in Qatar as he replaced Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic as manager on the last day of August this year. The reports suggested that the stand-off between Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech and Halilhodzic led to the change of coaches.

They have two firepowers in Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi who can light up Qatar with their skills and pace. Their primary target will be to shock one-off Belgium or Croatia in the group stage.

Goalkeepers: Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), Munir El Kajoui (Al Wehda), Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti (Wydad Casablanca).

Defenders: Nayef Aguerd (West Ham United), Yahia Attiat Allah (Wydad Casablanca), Badr Benoun (Qatar SC), Achraf Dari (Stade Brest), Jawad El Yamiq (Real Valladolid), Achraf Hakimi (Paris St Germain), Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern Munich), Romain Saiss (Besiktas).

Midfielders: Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina), Selim Amallah (Standard Liege), Bilal El Khannouss (Racing Genk), Yahya Jabrane (Wydad Casablanca), Azzedine Ounahi (Angers), Abdelhamid Sabiri (Sampdoria).

Forwards: Zakaria Aboukhlal (Toulouse), Soufiane Boufal (Angers), Ilias Chair (Queens Park Rangers), Walid Cheddira (Bari), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla), Abde Ezzalzouli (Osasuna), Abderrazak Hamdallah (Al Ittihad), Amine Harit (Olympique Marseille), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea).

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